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FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT ZONE

Manteca’s next ‘de facto’ community park?

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FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT ZONE

A City of Manteca worker adjusts sprinklers at Woodward Park.

HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo/


POSTED June 27, 2017 12:57 a.m.

Manteca’s next community park is apparently going to be at least a half a mile from the nearest house, accessible only via heavily traveled commercial streets, and will be designed to be used primarily as a source to draw business to support the envisioned family entertainment zone.
The municipal operating budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 reaffirms the city’s intent to develop Manteca’s fourth community park as part of the overall family entertainment zone (FEZ) west of the Big League Dreams sports complex on city-owned land where negotiations are underway for a 60-acre water park resort, hotel and conference center.
There is $2 million in remaining redevelopment bond receipts set aside for a community park to be developed in the heart of the FEZ.
A masterplan being developed for the FEZ — not on input from a citizens’ based group or the Manteca Parks & Recreation Commission — that’s aimed at snaring complementing private sector investments will “further define the level of community park improvements” based on the budget document.
Preliminary plans call for the construction of soccer fields and other outdoor fields for multiple sport uses.
The de facto designation of the FEZ as a community park potentially raises issues:
uWill it take priority over other community parks projects competing for the $3,740 per home fee being paid for by growth for the expressed purpose of funding community parks?
uWill it take precedent over the $854,000 that is called for in the five-year parks capital improvement program to develop restrooms and a concession building in the “upper areas” of Woodward Park?
uWill it derail other Woodward Park master plan projects not budgeted such as an amphitheater, tennis courts and developing baseball fields in the storm retention basin or are those elements off the table?
uDoes it effectively prioritize where future community park fees will go and weaken any efforts for groups to push for an aquatics center before it even gets off the ground?
uIs the best placement of a community park to serve Manteca on the western edge of the city in a non-residential area?
uBased on a FEZ strategy to bring in regional tournaments for competitive recreational sports such as soccer so spectators and players to access envisioned restaurants and other private sector entertainment concerns, will Manteca end up being heavy on soccer fields and not have other recreation features community surveys showed support for such as an aquatics center or a teen center?
Unlike with the planning for Northgate Park and Woodward Park — two of the three existing Manteca community parks that also includes Lincoln Park — public input based on it being a community park was not sought beforehand.
Instead a consultant devised the FEZ strategy when the first waterpark resort suitor — Great Wolf Resort — was negotiating with the city to develop on 30 acres.
The community park concept at the heart of the FEZ was developed after the last redevelopment agency bond was sold. While there was indeed $2 million set aside for community parks as part of the prospectus to lure investors, the discussion by previous councils was for a community park possibly east of Highway 99. While that was far from being set in stone and the city can legally use the funds on any appropriate community park projects, some may see it as putting the cart before the horse when it comes to traditional planning and community input.
Sinking RDA money for a community park on property that’s part of the city’s wastewater treatment didn’t come up until the FEZ proposal surfaced.
In the meetings regarding the FEZ concept it never was clearly stated it could end up as Manteca’s fourth community park.
The city is trying to get synergy from the FEZ being sandwiched between the city-owned and privately operated Big League Dreams and a possible water park resort.
The community park fields at the FEZ could also be leased out to a private operator much like the BLD complex.
If it operates in the same manner it means there would be “free” community use before scheduled games typically prior to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Prime playing time would likely be locked up on Friday nights and the weekend to maximize profits and drawing business for nearby private sectors restaurants and such the city hopes to secure.
That wouldn’t be the only departure from how community parks have developed previously in Manteca. Woodward and Northgate are along four-lane arterials and Lincoln Park is on a collector street in residential neighborhoods. Two are adjacent to schools and all three are away from commercial districts.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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